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Opposition Too Claims Victory, Vows to ‘Protect Votes’

United National Movement contenders claimed victory following the Mtavari Arkhi TV/Anova exit polls showing opposition hopefuls narrowly leading mayoral races in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Zugdidi.

But Nika Melia, UNM’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate, called on fellow opposition leaders and observers at polling stations to “protect the votes” during the counting process. “Now is not the time to be at offices.”

Declaring that “Georgian people won,” Melia argued the opposition is winning in “every large city.”

The celebratory mood came amid exit polls showing conflicting results. Pro-government Imedi TV-commissioned poll showed Georgian Dream’s Tbilisi mayoral hopeful Kakha Kaladze winning with 57% and other candidates narrowly leading in other largest cities of Batumi, Kutaisi, Rustavi.

Mtavari Arkhi TV poll results also fall within the margin of error.

In the coastal city of Batumi, Giorgi Kirtadze, mayoral hopeful of UNM, said he believes the Mtavari Arkhi TV exit poll results are true, “as it could be felt in the city that the Georgian Dream was defeated for good, and so it happened.”

Claiming the GD is mobilizing its activists to hinder the vote count, Kirtadze stressed “it is over, Batumi already has a multi-party majority in the Sakrebulo and a coalition City Hall.”

Kutaisi mayoral hopeful Khatia Dekanoidze said “she had not lost the faith in victory even for a single minute,” going on to add that now the opposition has to “protect every vote” of Georgian citizens during the counting. “It is necessary that we preserve these results in Kutaisi and everywhere.”

United National Movement mayoral candidates in Batumi, Tbilisi, Poti and Kutaisi have proposed shadow coalition cabinets along with several opposition parties, including Lelo, Droa, European Georgia and others.

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